Opinion: Artist or Designer?

A lot of times I meet peers, it eventually comes down to the question if a designer is an artist or has to be an artist at all.

For me, it seems that every designer can be an artist, but not every artist is a designer. Besides my opinion on the matter, let’s break down some of the definitions. What is the difference between an artist or designer?

“Design; The use of shapes, forms, colors, images and typography to convey a specific message or to provoke action from a specific audience.”

“Art; created to evoke emotional response from the audience.”

So what is the essential difference between art and design? I’ll try to examine and compare some of the main principles of each craft. Most likely the most fundamental differences are in their purpose.

1. Good art inspires, good design motivates. To illustrate this, imagine both a designer and an artist sitting down with a blank canvas in front of them.  The artist will want to create a succesfull artpiece by establishing a strong emotional bond with their audience. In contrast, the designer mostly has a fixed starting point; communicating a message, image, idea, solving a problem or provoking action.

2. Talent vs Skill. In most cases, an artist has been born with the ability to make art. They might have grown up drawing, painting, sculpting, developing their own artform. However, talented artists do have skill, but skill without talent  is arguably worthless. Design on the other hand is mostly a skill that is learned. You don’t have to be a great artist to be a great designer. As long as you meet the requirements you gave your design. On the other hand, many famous designers have very minimal styles. Using whitespace, positioning, colour and size to enhance their designs. In my opinion, their skill is formidable. But they must have talent to get that far, or come up with certain ideas. Thus a designer can be an artist as well.

3. Good art is interpreted, good design is understood. While art connects with people in different ways, because it’s interpreted differently. The fundamental purpose of design is to communicate a message. Next to the fact that good design is “invisible”, it can still be eyecandy.

For me, the greatest difference in a designer and an artist is that a designer is mainly a problem-solver. Whether it’s in the digital realm, on print, for products, for brands, for architecture. They will always try to solve a problem by design or design thinking. To cut my story short, a designer can be an artist. However an artist isn’t always a designer.

Ofcourse this isn’t a guide on the subject, would love to hear other opinions or spark a discussion on the matter!